Film and television is full of characters who are supposed to be amazing writers, but are they actually good at what they do? In almost every film and television show, audiences are inundated with characters who are supposedly good writers but are clearly terrible. Sometimes their work is bad, and sometimes they don’t even work. But why are there so many bad writers in television? You can chalk it up to bad writers writing bad writers, or to put it another way, the actual writer of the piece is trying to insert themselves into their film under the guise of the voice of their generation. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ve witnessed this trope, just watch anything adapted from a Charles Bukowski novel or literally every episode of Gilmore Girls.
Writers in movies are always bad. Always. It seems like it’s impossible for a writer in a piece of media to actually be a good writer. Most of the time they’re too verbose, laying on the adjectives and metaphors like some kind of person that lays things on other things. The only times that awful writers in TV don’t have suspect writing is when audiences don’t even see their writing. That’s almost worse than terrible writers in movies making everyone hear their terrible prose (or read it - which is what no one wants to do while they’re watching something). Keep reading to see if your favorite fictional author made it on the list. If they did, then go ahead and pen a severe missive and mail it in to the comments.
Season 6 of Girls opens with Hannah writing a personal essay that reads: "After clinging to the emotional scraps left in their wake and attempting to discard them piece by painful piece, I did not reject their happiness any more than I clung to the illusion that I might be any happier (or that they might be happier) had they kept their feelings for each other in check with their feelings and respect for me - the unwilling resin of their relationship." Who wants to play a game to see how many more clauses they can add to that?
Later, her friends and family read the piece in The New Yorker, and they all smile like big, dumb idiots while they read. First of all, no one reads anything like that. They could be reading the wittiest essay by Steve Martin, and their faces would still be locked in a grimace. But more to the point, Hannah's writing isn't very good. It reads like a collection of David Sedaris essays that got stuck in that machine from The Fly with a thesaurus (the greatest sentence known to man).
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Thanks to the fact that Carrie Bradshaw pretty much wrote one article per episode, there's a lot of terrible writing to choose from, so one can't help but wonder... were the writers of Sex and the City actually bad writers? That's such a Carrie thought to have - given the amount of "wondering" that fashion-forward lass does in her writing - but it's just really bad writing. Take, for example: “As I watched Laney tear open a terrycloth baby bib... with the same enthusiasm she once reserved... for tearing off rock stars' pants... I couldn't help but wonder... Was I next?"
Or how about this classic: “Although, at what point do separate interests become separate bedrooms? I couldn't help but wonder: To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?”
Can you help but wonder why this writing is so formulaic?
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Audiences spent seven seasons being told that Rory Gilmore is the best, most precious, smartest writer on the planet. She's read so many books that there's no way her writing could be bad. But time and time again, viewers are shown that the littlest Gilmore is not so great at her chosen profession. First, when Rory gets an internship at her boyfriend's dad's newspaper, she completely folds any time her boss is mean to her (hello, this is a newspaper; it kind of comes with the territory!). Then she kind of disappears from school for a while, and by the time of Year in the Life, she's become one of the worst writers on the planet. Not only does she make quips about what David Foster Wallace would have done (UGH), but she consistently bails on her articles even after she's been given a million chances to not be a terrible writer. She sleeps with sources. She falls asleep while interviewing sources. She somehow even manages to make a mess of running her hometown paper - and she's Stars Hollow royalty!
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In Adult World, John Cusack plays Rat Billings, your basic Bret Easton Ellis/JD Salinger type who became a popular author at too young of an age and gets weepy about it when people don't love the rest of his work. But here's the thing, his writing sounds like it's from a third-rate Green Day single: "Love. Love until you hate. Then, learn to hate your love. Then, forgive your hate for loving it." UGH. Get out of here, Rat!